Saturday, January 28, 2012

Everett Town?

All around the city of Lansing we have several unique areas, like "REO Town," "Old Town" and "Downtown."

But what do we call the Old Everett Area?

For those who don't know, the Old Everett Area wasn't annexed into the city until 1948. Before that time, we were part of Lansing Township. Many of our longtime residents still look back when everyone went to school at the old Everett School, too. (The old police station at South Cedar Street and Holmes Road.)

It's like we're a small town inside of a major city.

Our boundaries follow Greenlawn Avenue to the north, the railroad tracks to the east, Jolly Road to the south, South Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to the west, zigging down Holmes Road and zagging up South Washington Avenue back to Greenlawn Avenue.

Upon looking in this area, we have several districts, including Holmes Orchard, Cedarbrook, Maplehill, Everett, Cavanaugh Park, Kendon Park and Church Point. And when everything is put together, we have the recipe for a small city, with South Cedar Street acting as our downtown.

Other parts of our city use branding to promote who they are. Everyone loves the artistic culture of Old Town. And REO Town is an up and coming part of town, seeing new developments and is the future home to the Board of Water and Light's natural gas-fueled power facility. There's even a HUGE "REO Town" sign where the now-defunct Deluxe Inn once stood.

Would "Everett Town" work? What about "Old Everett"? Maybe just "Everett"?

By branding our area, we can help create a sense of community that may not be blantly obvious to those who live outside of our neighborhood. Our neighborhood has a population that can trace its roots to before it was a part of the city of Lansing. And over the years, families have stayed and generations have continued on. We have long-time roots and a small-town feel that's worth boasting to those who are thinking about moving here.

Here's the question: How do we brand our neighborhood?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Scathing Activity at the CATA Station Downtown

The cold-blooded murder of 31-year-old Desmond Dorris at the Capital Area Trasportation Autority's Transportation Center in downtown Lansing is no surprise.

I walk by this facility every day, going to and from work. And I can personally testify that I'm usually nervous when walking by the building.

It takes a lot to get me on alert, especially coming from a guy who parks in R.E.O. Town and used to walk by the now-razed Deluxe Inn on a daily basis.

Since I started working downtown a couple of years ago, the CATA station has gradually gotten worse and worse. By mere observations, more and more people are loitering, dealing drugs, digging out of trash cans and virtually living at the facility.

The hotspot of all the activity seems to be in front of the Lansing State Journal building and at the corner of Lenawee Street and Grand Avenue.

In fact, the Lenawee Street corridor from Washington to Grand avenues is a bastion of craziness, sporting a seedy party store to spice up the mix. With a recipe of soothing amenties for troublesome behavior, it's no wonder the actions of Tuesday occurred.

During the summer months, a couple of individuals resided on the benches along Grand Avenue, specifically a large man who sported a loin cloth during the warmest days in July and a disabled man in a wheelchair. They would be there from the crack of dawn to the darkness of dusk.

As I would walk by these benches on some days, I would pick up liquor bottles and fast food wrappers left by some of these transients, doing my little part to make our city a cleaner. I refused to touch a soggy pile of clothes that appeared one day, though.

The homeless would also tap into nearby buildings for electricity on occasion, with some of my co-workers claiming to have seen two men shaving each other's heads at a property off Grand Avenue. When the landscaping grasses grew tall in front of the now-defunct Boarshead Threater, some transients would sleep in the weeds.

Several of my co-workers have resorted to carrying pepper spray just in case something happens.

The murder that occurred on Tuesday was the final straw -- and it was absolutely infuriating to see CATA executive director and CEO Sandy Draggoo remark in the local media that this wasn't a CATA problem because it happened outside the facility. She seemed more alarmed about the dirtying of the CATA brand than the murder.

She is in denial and possibly in a surreal world.

To solve the problems in the area, CATA and the city of Lansing need to seriously examine the security problems at the facility. If there was a full-time Lansing Police Deparment or sheriff's office detachment at the building, like a transit police unit, it could go a long way for stability. Let's face it, the rent-a-cops that already patrol the building aren't taken very seriously. Security cameras help but only go so far.

And that's just the start.

CATA could rework their scheduling so there's a constant trickle of buses coming to and from the station. It always seems like there's a large gathering of people before all of the buses file in. The constant flow of people would prevent large crowds from building up as riders wait for their next bus.

We don't let water stagnate in a drain, right?

And we can't forget about the homeless, either. Let's enforce the laws on the books so people don't essentially live at the facility. If they're in need, they should be referred to the proper tools so they can rebuilt their lives. The CATA station is not a hotel -- there are several accessible shelters nearby.

The CATA building is a clean and wonderful jewel in the city of Lansing. But some of the people who frequent it are causing problems for the whole city and region. If CATA and the city does not act soon, it's hard to say what will become of the area.

The Soup to Nutz Bistro restaurant has already closed -- and Davenport University is nearby. The last thing we want to hear next is a student, worker, tourist, bus rider, passerby, etc., getting mugged or killed.

Enough is enough.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

R.I.P. Readmore Building

It as early last week when I received an email from one of our fellow neighbors about the former "Readmore" building at 4000 S. Cedar St. being torn down.

"Do you know what's going on?" the neighbor wrote.

In a moment of panic, I abruptly contacted county and city officials, attempting to get to get to the bottom if this situation. And after working with different government officials, both at the county and city levels, it was discovered that the building was only being demolished.

There were only demolition permits -- no construction permits -- pulled at this time.

It was a while ago when the building closed, serving customers the latest comic books, newspapers and magazines for generations. But as the digital age came upon us, its need diminished, with print publications losing interest and more and more people flocking to the Internet to get their information.

I never had the opportunity to go inside the store when it was open. It has always been a curiosity of mine, and I've always imaged what it was like inside, wondering what else could fill the void of the once prosperous newsstand.

But the building met its demise on Monday, Dec. 5.

Whether it was demolished to cut down on a property tax burden or the property is slated for bigger and better things, we just don't know at this time. We have attempted to contact the owners of the property, hoping they will give us a glimpse into their plans.

Nothing has been heard from them to date.

As soon as new information is available, we'll be sure to pass it along. We're willing to work with them -- not against.

Note: At the Old Everett Neighborhood Association community meeting on Tuesday, it was sad to learn that Sammy's on Jolly Road has closed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rebuilding Our Neighborhood

What things do you like and dislike about the Old Everett Neighborhood?

That's the question that I'm going to be asking people at the upcoming Old Everett Neighborhood Association community meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13., at the Ingham Regional Medical Center Education Center.

The future of our neighborhood starkly depends on the input of its residents. We're all stakeholders in our area. When the times are good, we reap the benefits. When things go sour, we all feel the heat

Our neighborhood has seen some dramatic changes in the last couple of years. We've seen our neighbors come and go, foreclosures rise and businesses close. Even city services that we once took for granted for timeliness are taking longer and longer to complete.

The beginning of a new neighborhood starts now.

I'm encouraging everyone to close their eyes and think about what they want to see in Old Everett 2.0. As a neighborhood, we have some terrific assets and some that we would like to see go away.

For a glass half-full approach, we have soccer fields, a winning Everett High School Quiz Bowl team, excellent parks, and several small-town-like businesses that rival any community.

And that's only a few things.

If we expand upon our perks, it's hard to say where we will go. Before we can move forward, though, we need to put our thinking caps on and work together as a community. When we collectively work together, people notice and results occur.

On another note, this meeting also features our holiday party. If you so feel inclined, please bring a treat to pass. Neighbors from all across our area and beyond come for this very occasion.

It's also a great venue to meet and network with neighbors. Please join us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fabulous Acres: Run Through, Not Away

Fabulous Acres isn't the nicest neighborhood in Lansing.

In fact, the place can be outright scary at times. But I make it a point to run through that blighted area during my semi-daily running routine.

And it's not because I'm crazy -- it's to show that the best way to fight blight is to confront it.

By now, most Lansing area residents have heard that an 18-year-old teenager was killed in a shooting at the corner of Washington and Barnes avenues.

The area has a pool hall, a shady party store, an abandoned Little Caesars and, down the road, there's a trash-strewn lot with the ever-so-famous Fabulous Acres neighborhood sign. There's even a church called "The Bread House."

It's a place that boomed when the now-gone REO Plant cranked out cars like candy at the beginning of the last century.

Instead of falling into the norm and classifying the neighborhood as a "ghetto," we need to stand up and start investing in the area. For every house that is purchased and fixed up, every business that begins and prospers, every family that moves in and befriends their neighbors, it creates an atmosphere for success.

It's important to remember that if we don't take action and live by example, then nothing will occur. We always assume someone will do something for us.

Times are changing and we must think for ourselves and our neighbors. We need to pick up the garbage in that trash-strewn lot. We need to actually talk to the person two houses down. We need to work as a team.

When I hit the pavement and make my way down Washington Avenue, just past Mount Hope and toward the Michigan State Capitol, I never know what I may encounter. But by actually appearing in an area that many deem avoidable, it makes things more desirable to others.

The next time you're in Lansing, take a mosey through REO Town and Fabulous Acres. The visit may change your perception.